Monday, September 12, 2011

Student Rachel Lawrence at Porolissum, Romania

In summer 2011 I spent just under 6 weeks in Romania on the Porolissum Forum Project and I had the time of my life. I flew in to the city of Cluj-Napoca, an ancient city in Transylvania settled by the Romans, and there I met the rest of the field crew. We were given a tour of Cluj before heading toward Porolissum. We stopped at a Roman military site and explored the ruins, a salt mine that has been in use since pre-Roman times (used by Dacians), and finally we arrived at Porolissum. Porolissum is a very large Roman military site that was on the border between the Empire and Barbaricum. It controlled a number of local forts that were much smaller, and we were able to visit some of them on weekend trips. On weekends, we took local trips or one organized by the Project to the northern part of Romania, Maramures, famous for its gorgeous woodcarvings and maintaining traditional practices.

Rachel in Trench 11, framed by the two Roman walls; check out the hypocaust!
At the site, we opened six trenches over the course of the five weeks we excavated. We were digging in an area we thought was the forum and I was placed in what was believed to be the basilica. In my original trench, we found a large wall with the plaster still intact, and then a smaller wall in the same trench. The wall ran through another trench that was right next to the original, and we found a concentration of tiles. We found three separate hypocaust systems (ancient heating), as well as several stamped tiles, some of which had finger prints and paw prints on them. This season unearthed quite a few coins, some excellent bones (animal, not human…sorry!), wonderful pottery, glass, bronze and iron, and even some pieces of wood. One day, we found a bronze disk with wood still attached and the nail through it! Some days we would wash the artifacts, and a few times I remained at the camp and catalogued. Local Romanians helped us with the excavation, taught us some of the language, and we grew into a family. It was an incredible experience.

Rachel at Castle Dracula.
My favorite bit was in the fourth week. The site director gave me permission to leave the excavation and do research on Vlad the Impaler, the subject of my senior thesis. I went to Bucharest (the capital of Romania) and saw the palace there, as well as his alleged grave. I visited T├órgoviste, the medieval capital that still contains Vlad’s palace, and ended my journey with visiting Castle Dracula, Vlad’s mountain fortress. To finally see everything I wanted to see was indescribably awesome for me.

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